Under a new bill passed by the US House of Representatives, a 17-year-old boy who requests a naked photo from his girlfriend would receive a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison.
The bill is called The Protection Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017, and it received the support of all but two House Republicans.
Under current law, sexting can already result in child pornography charges even if the messages are willingly sent and received by minors.
This new act, though, would impose mandatory minimums on all child pornography charges — meaning even a teen sexting case (which are usually treated with leniency by judges depending on the context) would require a sentence of at least 15 years in prison.
“If a teenager goads a friend to ask a teenager to take a sexually explicit image of herself, just by asking, he could be guilty of conspiracy or attempt, and the judge must sentence that teenager to at least 15 years in prison,” Rep. Bobby Scott told Reason.
Some legislators tried to tack on amendments to avoid this harsh punishment and protect teenagers from spending the rest of their youth behind bars, but both amendments failed.
Meanwhile, many liberals and civil rights activists have opposed the legislation on the grounds that it’s unfair to penalize young people for what is considered by many to be a natural instinct when sexual development takes place in an increasingly technology-centered social landscape.
The purpose of child pornography laws is to prevent minors from being abused, not criminalize young people for sexual experimentation. https://t.co/2Nvbhs3u3N
— ACLU National (@ACLU) June 1, 2017
Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee called the legislation “deadly and counterproductive.”
“While the bill is well intended, it is overbroad in scope and will punish the very people it indicates it is designed to protect: our children,” she said during a House floor debate.
Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson, the bill’s author, disagrees.
“I, for one, believe we have a moral obligation, as any just government should, to defend the defenseless,” he said.
The vocal Trump supporter then decided to bring the Bible into the debate.
“In Scripture, Romans 13 refers to the governing authorities as ‘God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer,'” Johnson said.
Along with a bunch of horny high schoolers, Johnson thinks parents are also “wrongdoers” when it comes to sending nudes.
“Any parent, legal guardian, or person having custody or control of a minor who…knowingly permits such minor to engage in, or to assist any other person to engage in, sexually explicit conduct knowing that a visual depiction of such conduct will be produced or transmitted” will also face a mandatory 15-year prison sentence under the law.
The bill will now go to the Senate after only two Republicans and 53 Democrats voted against it.
Next, read about the teen who’s on trial for manslaughter after encouraging her boyfriend to kill himself. Or read the chilling story Harvey Robinson, the teenage serial killer spending his life on Death Row.